4.06.2016

Why I shelled out good cash for yet another new camera. Or, make the cameras fit the job...


Cameras are always in flux here. We find something we like and exploit it. A few months later a different kind of project comes up and we change gears. This is not the domain of a hobbyist photographer who is hellbent on mastering one camera and one small set of lenses and then pressing it into service for everything. We tackle a wide range of projects and if a new or different camera makes the job easier, better (or more fun) we more often than not opt for the new camera.

Near the end of the fourth quarter of last year I joined an art director from Austin on one of those delightful nonstop Southwest Airlines flights to Newark, N.J.  We were going to a small town in central N.J. where we would set up lights and make environmental portraits with shallow depth of field. I packed a couple of full frame Nikon cameras and a good selection of lenses; short, fast telephotos and some all purpose zooms. You never know when a different visual opportunity might present itself...

At the last minute I also packed in a Panasonic fz 1000 camera and a few extra batteries. All of the cameras, lenses and batteries got wedged into a Think Tank Airport Security roller case while the five light stands three umbrellas, four battery powered flashes and my tripod got snugged into a padded, Tenba rolling stand case. It was heavy. But when you need stands and a tripod you've got to have them.

One the first day and a half we got all of our narrow depth of field portraits done and we were a half day ahead of schedule. A perfect time to go into the factory/facility and shoot production shots and images of workers and their machines. This wasn't on our original purview but it sure was a lot of fun. I decided to press the Panasonic into service and got many great shots that would have taken more time and been more difficult to take with the full frame Nikons. The extra depth of field worked in this photojournalistic style undertaking, as did the wildly far ranging zoom lens, wedded to a very effective image stabilization system. But the star of the show were the handful of 4K video snippets (b-roll?) that we shot on a lark.

At that point the client was hooked. The small, fast camera did such a good job generating video files that the art director called again a few weeks back and outlined a different project for the same client. This time we would go up to shoot more manufacturing images and a lot more video. Could I bring along a wireless microphone and perhaps we'd get some interviews??? Of course.

By this time I'd gotten a Sony RX10ii and, with the headphone jack and richer selection of video tools in the camera, it seemed the logical choice for this new project. I also planned on packing the RX10 classic body as a back-up. You know, just in case. We couldn't really do much lighting on the shop floors so I was pretty excited by the prospect of not having to haul around the Tenba case full of stands and flashes and I was happy that ditching the Nikon stuff was going to save me ten pounds or so in my carry on.

But then, as in all things advertising, the other shoe dropped. The art director called. There had been a rash of new hires at the corporation we'd be shooting at. Could we add a day and also get some more of those keen, narrow depth of field environmental portrait shots. When a really good clients asks the gestalt reaction is: "Yes, of course."

But here's the deal... I had my head wrapped around those Sony RX10s and I wanted to go that way. I'm just smart enough to know though that the look of the files would be different enough to be a deal killer as far as the narrow depth of field portraits went. Just too big a difference between the smaller sensor and the full frame ones. The Nikon 135mm f2.0 is just a different animal.

But then I saw the announcement and the hoopla for the a6300. If I put the right selection of lenses in front of that camera I could match the look of bigger cameras, or at least get into the reasonable ballpark. How about the Nikon 105mm 2.5? Or the 85mm 1.8? Or (fill in the blank). With the a6300 I would have a small and light body with a killer sensor and, with a small selection of Nikon ais lenses, or even an older Leica 90mm f2.0 Summicron, I'd have a combination that would give me the same look.

The added benefit would be the fact that all three cameras used the same batteries. That meant bringing along just one system of batteries and chargers. Even better, all the menus matched up well and would help me to streamline my thought processes. Seemed eminently logical to me.

The cost of the camera is just about half of my day rate so I figured with three days on site and a couple of (less expensive) travel days, I would hardly notice the impact on my wallet. We haven't finalized dates for the job yet but in the short time I've had the camera (since Friday) I've already shot a profitable job with it.

The camera packs a lot of good imaging potential into a small space but really, it had me when I looked at the new EVF. The EVF is one of the most effective ways to streamline image production that's been introduced since we started shooting digital. You don't have to believe it. But innovation sure works for me.

My new favorite combination for just walking around? That would be the a6000 coupled with a Pen F manual focus 38mm f1.8. Just right. The focus peaking in camera makes it almost perfect...

7 comments:

Hugh said...

"a hobbyist photographer who is hellbent on mastering one camera and one small set of lenses"...

...which is probably the best thing an amateur or someone who wants to make art could do.

TMJ said...

The Summicron 90mm I have is the apo/asph version and gives a brilliant 135mm equivalent look on my NEX-7. You can be very precise about what is, and is not, in focus.

Josh M said...

I'm considering the a6300 as well, and am intrigued by the possibility of using it in combination with a Speedbooster (namely this one: http://www.metabones.com/products/details/MB_SPEF-E-BT2 ) for the times when I need the more specialised lenses such as exactly this situation you describe... I can't see any disadvantage. Thoughts?

Kirk Tuck said...

None. Mind like jello today...

Anonymous said...

In the last paragraph you mention Oly lens Pen F 38mm f1.8. When will we see the latest Oly Pen F camera musings in your capable hands. Precision Camera left the message last night. They have it in stock, awaiting...

Wataru Maruyama said...

Getting two A6300s or maybe an A6000 as a backup? Based off your past behavior I would be shocked if that wasn't in the cards;)

Kirk Tuck said...

Wataru, Of course. I bought an a6000 as the back-up for the a6300. Both very good cameras for a certain kind of shooting. I rarely go out of character.